Flash Metal Suicide: Electric Boys
This week: the debut album from Electric Boys, and why funk metal isn't funky
“Do you wanna dance? Do you wanna take a chance tonight?” - All Lips and Hips
I have something to admit. I'm an Electric Boys fan. Hardcore. In it for life. It's a little embarrassing. I mean, think about it. Think about asking for their first album out loud at the record store. “Hi, do you have Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride by the Electric Boys?” And that was in 1990, so your voice probably cracked while you did it. Personally I'd throw you right out of my store with that nonsense. What if somebody asked you to describe them? I did it on my radio show last night, matter of fact. “They're Swedish T Rex rip-offs who play funk metal”. That really sounds like the worst thing ever. And it should be. But it's not. It's great. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Electric Boys' main-man Conny Bloom is one of the coolest cats in the entire flash metal stratosphere, up their with the Izzys and the Rat Boys and the Ingers. I've never said any of this in public before. Feels good. I'll probably get hit in the noggin with a spiked bat from some Venom fans tomorrow, but at least I told the truth.
First though, let's briefly discuss the enigma that is 'funk metal'. If it doesn't sound quite right, that's because it doesn't actually exist. People think it does, and they often cite Suicidal Tendencies' offshoot Infectious Grooves as a prime example. But there's no funk in their Grooves, even if they try to convince you otherwise with songs like 'Funk It Up'. It's just rubbery jazz-thrash. If you're gonna be funk metal, you've got to actually be a metal band, and you've gotta be funky. Nobody fits that bill, not Rage Against The Machine, not Mind Funk, not Primus, not even Clutch. And Clutch are funky as hell. They might be the heaviest funk band on the planet. But they are definitely not funk metal. And the reason for that is simple. Funk is just too cool for metal. That might sting, but it's true. Metal grinds away in the pit, pushing, shoving, screaming, fighting, while funk is elevated, cosmic, floating above the fray on waves of purple velvet. Bang Tango and O Donel Levy just don't exist in the same universe, man.
But hey, that's how Conny decided to introduce the world to his band. He's the one that threatened to take us on a funk-o-metal carpet ride, so he's gonna have to deal with explaining 'Funk metal' for the rest of his life. Electric Boys got their start in '88 and released Carpet Ride a year later, although it didn't reach the US until 1990. Normally the timing would have spelled their doom and I suppose in some ways it did, but despite the surface glam-metal trappings of the album, it was clear from the beginning that this band had more going on than late-in-the-game blouse-abusers like Beau Nasty or Kick Tracee.
Whether it was opening with birdsounds (recorded in Bloom's own backyard) or throwing in some sitar or (ugh) funky popping basslines, Carpet Ride is anything but a typical flash metal record. It loves pop hooks, but the right ones – Beatles, Hanoi, Bolan – and it's got a gently fried psychedelic aesthetic that was really nowhere to be found in metal circles at the time, and seems positively prescient given the wave of psychedelia that hit shortly after in the 90s. Aside from the robotic click-clack of the drums (Jesus Christ, producers were awful at recording drums in the 80s), it's a very hip record with a joyous, heroic vibe and two hit singles (All Lips N' Hips, Psychedelic Eyes) that worm deep into your brain and stay there, presumably (I mean it's been almost thirty years already) forever. It's like if Hanoi Rocks knew how to dance.
And to be honest, they never really blew it. The next one, Groovus Maximus, leaned a little harder on the 'funk' aspect, but was still solid. The one after that was a stoner rock album, a good year or so ahead of the wave. During the Boys' downtime, Bloom played with the revamped Hanoi Rocks and Ginger Wildheart in his Silver Ginger 5 offshoot. He got the Boys back together a few years ago, and they released a couple more records, And Them Boys Done Swang (Oof with that title, though) and Starflight United, both of which sound like 80's Electric Boys but updated appropriately. Really, the only bad move the dude ever made was naming his first album Funk O Metal Carpet Ride and throwing off potential customers who thought the Electric Boys sounded like Infectious Grooves. But now you know what's up. They wore scarves, they had sitars, they were cool, man. So let's all get into the Electric Boys. I don't wanna have to be alone with this anymore.
Next week: Bleeding hearts and needle marks